March 4, 2010

Teachers Suggest How to Improve Education

This survey, commissioned by  Scholastic Inc and the Gates Foundation, asked teachers a number of questions about the current state of American education and how it can be improved.  The survey showed that, in terms of retaining good teachers, supportive leadership (68%), time to collaborate (54%) and high-quality curriculum (49%) all out-rank higher pay (45%).

The teachers' suggestions to directly improve student performance include: "clear, common standards; multiple measures of student performance; and greater innovation, including differentiated instruction and more use of digital resources."  I certainly agree with all of these things.  But I've got one to add.  

Smaller class sizes.  It is just plain common sense: if a teacher has 28 students, each one is going to get less personal attention and guidance than if the teacher has 18.  Of course a balance must be kept between class sizes, school budgets for teacher salaries and amount of physical space in the school.  I'm not suggesting that we give each teacher only 5 students.  But schools with 30 children or more per teacher?  This is equally ridiculous.  

But it's reality.  And the fact is that even if the teacher is fantastic, students in her class won't get as much personal attention, and they'll get fewer opportunities to speak up in class.  It will probably take longer to identify a student that is struggling or falling behind, and the teacher will have less time to help such a student.  It will probably also take longer to identify a child with a behavioral or learning disability.  

Many teachers out there are already great at their jobs, and have fantastic ideas on how to improve the system.  So let's give them the support they need to make it happen, stop overloading them with students and let them do what they do best.  

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